When the LCG switch was announced, there was a lengthy open letter from Christian Petersen to the community explaining the whats and whys. The non-rotation thingy might or might not have been in there.
Anyway, that letter was one great piece of CRM. Very open and honest. I would very much like to read it again, but I can't find it. So, if any of the oldtimers have it somewhere, I'd very much appreciate a link or a file. Thank you!
Here you go, good ser: Roseville, MN, Dec 21, 2007
An Open Letter From the CEO of Fantasy Flight Games to the A Game of Thrones CCG Community
INT. PROXIMO’S SOLAR. AFTERNOON.
PROXIMO Oh, you should see the Colosseum, Spaniard. Fifty-Thousand Romans, watching every movement of your sword. Willing you to make that killer blow. (beat) The silence before you strike. The noise afterwards. Rises. Rises up like a storm, as if you were the thunder god himself.
…Win the crowd, and you’ll win your freedom.
Maximus I’ll win the crowd. (beat) I’ll give them something they’ve never seen before.
- Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator.”
Sometime during the adolescence of the A Game of Thrones CCG (“AGOT”), I believe it was just after the release of the Ice and Fire edition, some players were screaming of storm clouds gathering and of doom (not the Valyrian kind) on the horizon. Some went so far as to declare AGOT “dead”. Witnessing such despair, I felt the need to calm the waters, and so posted something akin to “while it is true that all things -- in the end -- must die, for AGOT the answer is, echoing the lonely words whispered by Juba in the Colosseum, “Not Yet…. Not Yet!”.
That post, in its reference to the movie “Gladiator”, earned me the nickname of “Spaniard”, a handle I proudly hold as I fight for AGOT’s future. Remember, there is no such true love for AGOT as the that carried by the staff of Fantasy Flight Games. Every day in our breakroom, multiple lunch hour games of AGOT can be seen. Myself, having contributed a significant chunk of the original game design (the Plot card system namely), take great pride in the system, the fortitude of the rules, and Fantasy Flight Games’s perseverance in its survival.
Sometimes the fight for survival is hard.
It is an established fact in the hobby gaming world that most games die (if they indeed had life at all) after their “honeymoon” period is over. The new is no longer new, the quirks, once charming, become annoying; and most importantly – the spark is no longer there. Something shinier comes along, and the player moves on. A story old as time itself.
I don’t think there is any doubt that AGOT has survivedits honeymoon period. I am continually amazed by the great people, cunning gamers, and loyal fans that comprise the AGOT player base. I can assure you that Fantasy Flight Games is as loyal to you, as you have been to AGOT.
Yet, perseverance alone does not make a game grow. Loyalty does not forestall a game’s mortality – new players do! Although I disagree with industry-pundit Ryan Dancey’s conclusions on most topics, I do agree with one spectacular point of his: a game’s health and well-being is tied to the strength of its player network. Would you subscribe to a telephone service with only a few hundred other phones? I believe that the success of a CCG (and of most games) is tied to likelihood that a player will find other players.
All games have attrition in the player base, for a plurality of reasons. Older games will eventually see a decrease in the network of players, a cancerous process that makes the game exponentially less attractive. It is therefore critical that new players equal or exceed this attrition. When a game is new and fresh, the acquisition of new players requires less effort, but as a game ages, this task becomes increasingly difficult and costly. When a game crests in this way, I have often seen players blame the company (sometimes rightfully, most times not) for not advertising enough or for other incompetence. Advertising is somehow seen to be the panacea of troubled games. While there is justified room for advertising in a marketing plan, it is a fickle, risky, and mostly intangible way to increase a player base. Fantasy Flight Games, although we do advertise AGOT, has always felt that most of our resources were better invested in other efforts proven to be more effective in gaining new players. We have implemented such efforts over the years (most recently with Luke’s tour around the country), and we have seen ebbs and flows of success. But over time, the game has continued to slow. This is not AGOT specific, the same can be said for the CCG category in general, especially the more complex games (the exception having been CCGs for younger players based on weekly cartoon shows.)
However dire this may sound, whatever conjecture maybe racing through your head at this point, don’t despair. We’ve yet to throw in the towel on any of our CCG’s, and no towels will be thrown today.
Let me say, once again: “Not Yet!”
We have, of course, given much thought to the game and how we can create a new life for it and its community. It is a fact that the game needs change. That what is old must become new again. We don’t wish to fight yesterday’s wars, we want to move into the better future.
Nothing shall be the same.
To heed the banners. To ride into this future. We hereby introduce the following changes to the A GAME OF THRONES CCG:
Change One: The Living Card Game
For what is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger! - Aeron Damphair
Future AGOT releases will no longer be sold in “booster packs" and “starter decks”. The planned release that was entitled A Clash of Arms has been cancelled. Rather, AGOT will be launched in a new format that we call “Living Card Games”, or – to coin a new acronym – the “LCG”.
When Fantasy Flight Games’s Call of Cthulhu CCG failed to garner an audience large enough to support new game releases, we decided to instead release “Asylum Decks” so that the existing player base would have new content on a regular basis. This was a new and untried type of product, and Fantasy Flight Games had no expectations for how it would be received. At a minimum we hoped that Cthulhu players would appreciate our dedication to supporting the game.
To our surprise, these decks were a success. With this in mind, more ambitious thoughts began to stir about the future of the format.
The AGOT LCG.
There will be no further A GAME OF THRONES booster pack, or random collation, releases. Starting in February 2008, Fantasy Flight Games will begin releasing monthly “Chapter Packs” for AGOT, each containing 40 cards. (20 unique cards. As with the CoC Asylum Decks these will be 10 unique cards in 3 copies, and another 10 unique cards in 1 copy.)
Each deck will retail at $9.95, and will be produced in a hang-tab tuck-box (see picture on the next page).
The AGOT Chapter Packs will ship in “cycles” of 6 decks. The first such cycle is aptly called A Clash of Arms. All decks, released monthly, within a cycle will have the collectors “button” relating to that cycle. Each deck will have its own title – for example, the deck to be released this February will be called The War of Five Kings.
The second cycle of Chapter Decks is titled A Time for Ravens and will be launched with the release of two Chapter packs at Gen Con Indy 2008, and continue with monthly releases through December 2008.
Chapter packs will be limited edition product. When they are gone, they are gone. We don’t want retail stores to worry about an ever expanding line of decks, and we want the limited nature of AGOT cards to remain intact. Note that individual cards from Chapter Packs could make an appearance in later sets and products (just as prior cards have been re-introduced in the past in Premium Starters and the Legacy Pack).
Also, at Gen Con Indy 2008, we will introduce the new AGOT starter set, a $29.95 SRP boxed set, with a plethora of cards, custom playing pieces, a game board, and updates to the game system. In this way, Fantasy Flight Games brings AGOT into its greatest core competency: that of boxed game production. It is envisioned that a new AGOT starter would be created for every Gen Con along with a new cycle of Chapter Decks.
As manufacturing, shipping, and other human factors can be unpredictable, Fantasy Flight Games intends to make its monthly release dates happen on time by manufacturing all Chapter Packs of a single cycle in one printing. In this way, Fantasy Flight Games will have the inventory in stock, and will be completely in control of when the product ship to the market. This should insure a predictable and timely release schedule for the Chapter Packs within a cycle.
Why make such a change? Are we fixing something that is not broken? Are we breaking fixed things? These are good questions.
Please allow me to present some of the issues and thoughts on why this is a very powerful, positive change, not only for AGOT, but possibly for other CCG’s and the marketplace as a whole:
1) Collectibility Backlash
As many of you are well aware, a great number (if not majority) of hobby game players are reluctant, if not outright hostile, towards collectible games. Many reasons exist: random collation, cut-throat competitive play environment (not in AGOT, of course), cost, availability, and lack of players (compounded by the first series of points.
We saw with the Cthulhu CCG a significant resurgence in interest and players once the format changed to the non-collectible Asylum Decks. Suddenly, we realized, the potential player base had doubled, if not tripled, simply due to the step away from random collation. In the same way, we now hope that many new players will become interested in AGOT, and that former players will return to the fold. The game is now more accessible, a fact that we hope to communicate far and wide in the industry.
2) International Resistance
In 2005-06 Fantasy Flight Games made an effort to take AGOT to international markets, expanding the player base, and increasing Fantasy Flight Games’s return on the assets invested in each release. Although moderately successful in some countries, the cost of printing and maintaining a normal CCG can be very aggressive on publishing partners (especially as the collectibility backlash in Europe has been extremely strong), and impossible to bear if a “critical mass” of players do not materialize in that country. So, as some countries began to fail, the production became more expensive for the others (including Fantasy Flight Games.) The LCG format is conducive to far better distribution opportunities overseas than the CCG format, for. The incremental production is so much smaller, and the production process itself is less expensive for smaller print-runs, than a CCG (which, in addition to high cost, incurs a tremendous amount of waste in booster packs, booster displays, disposable common and uncommon cards,.). Now, even languages with smaller populations will be able to join Fantasy Flight Games in producing AGOT locally, and larger countries are certain to be targeted by Fantasy Flight Games for localized AGOT LCG releases.
Unfortunately, once a hobby retail store has discontinued a CCG, it will virtually never stock that game again. This has an almost insurmountable effect on acquiring new players, regardless of advertising and effort. Thus, players that later become interested in AGOT by Fantasy Flight Games’s marketing, find it increasingly harder to locate product, and, more importantly, find it harder to find the retail play-areas that re so critical to organized play and finding other players… Understandably, stores must use their resources to invest in the next up-and-coming product, and do not have much incentive to invest tremendous time and effort in a game that has run its course in their store. As all CCG players know, there is a vast number of CCG’s available and more are released monthly. Attempting to create renewed resurgence for AGOT in these tidal waves of new products is a costly and almost certainly futile fight. Instead, we dare to be novel. Dare to be new! We aim to launch not only the AGOT CCG with renewed vigor, but in a way that affects the category itself. Affects how players and retailers could see the category in the future. We know we have one of the best games out there, and it is time that it had an equally unique and novel release identity that sets it aside and plays to its strengths.
In our years selling CCG’s, we have found that a substantial number of stores are unable to effectively sell, or even carry, CCG’s. For example, in the U.S, if you go into a Borders bookstore, you will typically see the few CCG’s they carry, hidden away behind the counter to avoid theft. In this new format, we gain access to other markets (such as the book store market), which will be a positive event for player acquisition. Also, the investment for a single hobby retail store to try a CCG is typically at least one starter display (about $100 retail), and a booster display ($100+ retail). As an LCG is sold in smaller increments, we believe that a far greater number of stores will now be able to carry the product (and perhaps this will also mean that the cost of reintroducing AGOT would be far smaller for retailers that are no longer selling the game.)
Change 2: The Multiplayer Angle.
Starting with the 2008 AGOT Regionals, and culminating with the Gen Con Indianapolis World Championships, these AGOT games will be played using multi-player format. (Updated tournament rules will be provided in January.) This choice was made to move the game to where it is strongest, which is (in our opinion) in its multi-player incarnation. Think about it! What AGOT games have a greater flavor of A Song of Ice and Fire than the multiplayer games? In addition to the solid mechanics, you have the politics, backstabbing, hyperbole. Some multiplayer sessions seem as a page ripped out of the novels themselves.
Although there will be no one-on-one AGOT World Championship, Fantasy Flight Games will continue to run tournaments and organized play for one-on-one games, as well as “classic” format games. In addition to the Clash of Arms cycle of cards, standard legal cards leading up the GEN CON world championships in August ’08 will be the Winter Edition, Song of Twilight, Song of Night, Winter Premium Starter, Iron Throne, House of Thorns, House of Talons, and Five Kings sets. More details on this will be provided in January.
Using analogy, former AGOT championships were akin to tournament chess, while the new AGOT championships will harken to tournament poker.
Change 3: Organized Play.
In late spring, Fantasy Flight Games will launch its new Organized Play (OP) program for A GAME OF THRONES. We are creating an entirely new program, one that, like the LCG format, is innovative and novel. It isinto a new gaming age.
The planning phase of this new OP program have just been completed. The implementation of this project will require a significant effort by Fantasy Flight Games, but one that I am confident will result in an amazing service to the players. We intend to keep the details of the OP program under wraps for now, but will reveal more as we get closer to completion of this program. If you are a Night's Watch member, and you want to be informedabout our organized play plans, please contact Luke Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org so that he may add you to our list of Night's Watch contacts for the new program.
Until the major OP program is rolled out, our organized play team will be creating several events for the player community, as well as organizing the 2008 Regionals for April 2008. Keep your eyes peeled on this new site for news and other announcements. Thanks for playing,
Christian T. Petersen C.E.O. Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc email@example.com
EXT. THE MOROCCO ARENA. DAY
Maximus extends his arms to the crowd, sword held high, dripping with the gore of his foes.
(shouting) Are you not entertained?